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Reece/Shellhammer Adventure

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Reece/Shellhammer Adventure

I am showing a map of the area where Reece/Shellhammer Cemetery is located so you can better understand the problem I had with getting to the cemetery last Tuesday to photograph it. I could not directly see the cemetery with a satellite image because the cemetery is located in woods. The branches and leaves of trees hid the small cemetery from view from above. So I wasn't exactly certain of its location, only an approximation. Driving to the cemetery was not an option for two reasons - 1) the cemetery is on private property and 2) there are no roads that go to the cemetery! The only way to get to the cemetery is to walk in from the county road, a distance I estimated to be a little less than a 1/2 mile.

I was familiar with the layout of the land from earlier years and I knew that Pine Lake Fishing and Hunting Club was restricted to members only. The only way I was going to get to the cemetery was to get permission from the owner of the land who happened to have a house on the Club property. I had just finished photographing fifteen sites that I had on my list for the day. I still had plenty time left before dark so I decided to drive by Pine Lake and just scout out the area. As I drove down the road alongside the Club property I saw a car pull into the driveway of the house that belonged to the landowner. I pulled in behind the car with the purpose of getting verification that the cemetery actually existed in the timber where I thought it was and to see if the owners would grant permission to walk there across their property. The lady driving the car told that I was right, there was a cemetery in the timber. She said that her husband would gladly walk back there with me. She then took me around the side of their house to his work shed where he was and I introduced myself. I found out his name was Gary. He had many deer heads mounted on the walls of his work area as well as turkey tail feathers. We began talking taxidermy (I was a taxidermist in another life!!) and making panels for the mounts with all the tools he owned. I had almost forgot why I was there because I had become so engrossed in the way this man did all his own taxidermy work and was so willing to talk about it!

We eventually got around to discussing the cemetery!!?? He told me he was the proprietor of it. The county offered him minimal money for keeping it cleaned up and mowed. He would give people permission to visit the cemetery except when members of the club were hunting on the land. We got into my Jeep and drove to the east edge of the property on the county road where I parked along side of the road. There was a trail cut through the set-aside acres that Gary could drive his four wheeler on if he needed to haul out game. We walked the trail all the way to the timber, talking deer hunting as we went.

When we reached the trees I saw that he had cut paths (and kept them neatly mowed) through the timber. After quite a walk we came to a little fenced-off area that was the cemetery. There were only six stones in it. Gary had already told me they would be difficult to read because they were quite weathered. He pointed out some daffodils his mother had planted along the front of the cemetery.

He opened the gate and we entered the small plot where I took pictures of the stones. Sometimes with the sun at the right angle it is easier to read what is on the stones - we did not have the right sun angle!

I then went about getting photographs of each of the stones. Reading the names and dates on the stones in my photos is impossible so I will just show one stone that is representative of all of them. All six stones were from the time period of 1832 to 1854.

A few years ago a lady by the name of Jane DeWitt photographed the same stones after putting some kind of powder on their face which made the names and dates stand out. So even though the names and dates aren't readable in my photos, if you are interested you can get data for the stones from Cheryl Rothwell's site - http://logan.ilgenweb.net/cemeteries/reece/reece.htm Incidentally, four of the six stones have a Reece name; Shellhammer was a landowner.

After photographing all the stones Gary asked me if it would be OK if we continued on walking the direction we had been heading rather than turning around and heading back the way we had come. He said there were a couple other things he wanted me to see. Leaving the cemetery site we headed for Pine Lake which was visible through the trees.

Shortly, we were at the lake and he was telling me about the lake's history, what types of fish were in it and what species of wildlife visits the lake area. In this photo, taken from the shore near the dam, his house site and barns are visible in the background.

We walked along the dam and he showed me two overflows from Pine Lake that went into the bed of another lake. The lake had lost all of its water because the dam had eroded. The owner of that piece of land had some work done rebuilding the dam and now it is a just matter of time and rain before it will once again be filled with water. I forgot to take a picture of this lake bed because I was so shocked to see it!! Many, many years ago, when I was thirteen years old, I had played ice-hockey on that lake!! Over the years the memory of what the lake looked like became a fuzzy, unclear image in my mind. But when we stopped on the dam and I saw the bed of the lake, it all came back as if it had just happened. I could show you the spot where the car was parked that day after we drove across the field to get to the lake. I could identify the little finger of the lake where we first walked out onto the ice, and the first spot where I fell!! That adventure had happened over 54 years ago and it all came back as if it had just happened! Amazing!!

We continued walking on around the lake to a little peninsula where beavers had been very busy cutting down trees and eating the bark.

After getting several photos of the trees downed by the beavers we headed on around the rest of the lake and across a field to his yard. We then got into his truck and he drove me back to my Jeep. The memory of this outing that I have of walking to the cemetery with Gary and then around Pine Lake will remain with me for however many years I may have left. What a treat for me that was!!

Very cool story.
Bill Pearch   Friday, March 2, 2012
Yes, that was a great story. Sounds like Gary was more than happy to have an unexpected visitor. Did you strike up a good enough relationship for him to offer to let you hunt on his land?
jef   Friday, March 2, 2012
It's not quite the same, but this reminds me of a small cemetery in Downers Grove. The village is named after Pierce Downer. His family is buried in a small cemetery located in someone's suburban back yard. The headstones aren't little either. Unusual.
Bill Pearch   Friday, March 2, 2012
I would imagine that the property where they are buried was once part of the land belonging to the Downer family. When burial took place the land could have been fairly rural. Then with urban growth the rural part disappeared, but not the cemetery!
stheinz   Friday, March 2, 2012
Jef - no, we didn't talk about me hunting his land. Even if he would have offered I would not have accepted. I am pretty well established on a buddy's farm. Fishing might be a different story, though. I asked him about going back to his farm in the spring or summer and photographing wildflowers in his set-aside. He said that it would be OK to do that. Depending on how it goes, if I go back there, I may say something about fishing.
stheinz   Friday, March 2, 2012
What a neat story. I remember driving with my dad a few years ago in the town where his grandfather lived. We drove over a bridge and he said that it really looked like where he had fished as a kid, but at the same time it looked different (55+ years later). It's neat to see those kinds of things.
girlcarew   Wednesday, March 7, 2012
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